Sex Trafficking: DHS-ICE take on smugglers during Mardi Gras

Sex Trafficking
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New Orleans is swelling with upwards of 1.4 million people visiting for Mardi Gras season. 

But the parades, floats, throws, and fun are trolled by a dark business:  Sex Trafficking. 

Women, men, and children smuggled into Louisiana from as close as Texas or as far as China to work in prostitution. 

To protect the city and the region from the darker aspects of society is one of the reasons why The City of New Orleans took the major step of engaging the Department of Homeland Security to coordinate security efforts for Mardi Gras.

"For the first time, the Special Agent in charge of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) was designated the federal coordinator of this event," Says Immigrations and Customs Spokesperson Brian Cox.  "Homeland Security Investigations is able to provide a multitude of federal assets to assist the city and surrounding area with security for the event."

"Human trafficking is one of the things they have been working on with local partners," Cox says. 

"Unfortunately, this time of year, people coming to town looking to have fun, there are also criminals coming to town to exploit that fun to make money."

Cox describes human trafficking as "force fraud or coercion.  If individuals have their movement restricted.  Something that at a surface glance looks like it is a case of consensual prostitution—may not be.  It may actually be a case of trafficking."

HSI has boots on the ground and an ear to the dark web looking for sex trafficking. 

And their efforts have already paid off.  Just last Thursday two men from Texas were arrested at a hotel in Metairie.  The men had brought a woman and her child with them from Texas for the purpose of prostitution.  Jefferson Parish Sheriffs working with HSI were able to rescue the woman and her child. 

Cox says many victims of sex trafficking are foreign nationals brought for the sex trade. 

"The traffickers attempt to use immigration status as a means of fear and a means of control," Cox explains.  "To say 'don't call the police, you're going to be arrested and deported'.  Reality is precisely the opposite."

The aim of DHS and ICE when coming upon someone caught in sex trafficking is to ensure the victim is removed from the situation and safe.  He says traffickers feed their victims misinformation. 

Cox appeals to anyone who may be in a trafficking situation "If a person is a trafficking victim, regardless of their immigration status, seek help."

"Working with our partners to ensure that people who are trafficked against their will get the help and support they need is something that we're out doing," Cox declares.  "And we will continue to be doing it through Carnival Season."

Cox says anyone can help stop human trafficking; it's as easy as 'if you see something, say something.'